The only thing Sehome’s football team didn’t do was win.
The Mariners (7-4) proved they belonged in the Class 2A state playoffs, despite their 21-14 loss to second-ranked Liberty (9-2) in the opening round Friday night.
The tears they couldn’t hold back while walking off the field at Liberty and into a team meeting for the last time showed the pride they built during their first league title season since 2001.
The sheer effort of the Mariners against a faster team made their comeback from a 14-0 halftime deficit especially noteworthy.
It would be safe to say the Patriots displayed the quickest, hardest-hitting group of defenders the Mariners had ever seen.
“They pursued well,” was how Sehome coach Kevin Beason put it, perhaps referring to how much faster the Patriots looked on the field than on video.
And yet Sehome scored two second-half touchdowns in just about the grittiest way possible, mentally and physically.
After being held to 75 total yards in the first half, the Mariners rebounded with a remarkable 14-play, 63-yard drive to open the second half, capped by Dylan Roberts’ 1-yard touchdown run.
On third-and-two from the 17-yard line, sophomore quarterback Jacob Kaepernick lofted a pass to Brett Meggyesy, who outfought the defender and simply would not be denied a 12-yard gain. Roberts cracked for four yards to set up his score.
As if that weren’t enough to show the Mariners’ mental muscle, how they stayed in the game certainly displayed their grit.
With 3 minutes and 56 seconds to play, Liberty’s quick Jake Wright returned an interception 31 yards to score for a 21-7 advantage.
Did that faze the Mariners? Not a whit, as they immediately showed while driving 64 yards to score on Kaepernick’s 1-yard pass to Meggyesy and Melloy Nelson’s conversion kick with 1:31 remaining.
On that drive, Kaepernick found Meggyesy for eight yards in a potentially game-ending fourth-and-seven dilemma on Sehome‘s 39-yard line. Meggyesy helped set up his touchdown with a 26-yard catch between two defenders to the 27-yard line and a 12-yard grab on third-and 4 from the 21.
“I think we ‘showed out,’ ” said Meggyesy, who enhanced his school season and career receiving records with 12 catches for 113 yards. “A lot of people slept on us. We’re proud we’re a good team — we can make a run.”
Meggyesy finished with 61 catches this season and 94 for his career.
Roberts carried 28 times for 73 yards and not once was he thrown for a loss. But the Patriots did not allow the stalwart senior a run longer than eight yards, again showing their constant pursuit and gang-tackling.
In fact, the Mariners did not run a play that resulted in a loss. But Liberty’s quickness denied Sehome any gain longer than 13 yards until Meggyesy’s late 26-yard catch.
“I’m very proud of our effort tonight,” said Beason, whose team appeared in Sehome’s first state playoff game since 2013 and was bidding for the school’s first state win in more than two decades.
Beason had reason to be proud. A lesser team might have folded after Liberty sophomore Ryan Cain returned the opening kickoff 91 yards to score.
The Mariners responded to that sudden adversity with a 14-play, 65-yard push until the Patriots stopped Sehome at the 5-yard-line on a fourth-and-four run.
Liberty’s second score followed a 31-yard interception return by Cameron McLaren to the Sehome 30. Four runs later, Colton Wigen scored on an 8-yard run for the 14-0 lead only one minute before halftime.
Liberty’s third interception against Kaepernick was by Caleb Carr with five seconds to play.
Kaepernick completed 23 of 42 passes for 173 yards, but Liberty’s defensive key was holding Sehome’s receivers to an average gain of 7.5 yards. Liberty limited Sehome’s rushers to an average of three yards per carry.
Liberty gained 210 yards, including 141 on the ground, but the Mariners limited the Patriots to a net of 42 yards in the second half. The Patriots could not use standout Jacob Thoreson in the second half after he was injured in the second quarter, by which time he had amassed 98 yards rushing and receiving combined.
Sehome said goodbye to 20 seniors listed on the roster, which made the loss all that much tougher to take.